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You were expecting a baby, not a host of ailments but given that you are making a totally new human it’s not entirely surprising that there might be some symptoms along the bump-growing way. Here are some of the common ones, and what you can do about them;

Morning sickness

Most mothers get some kind of morning sickness during pregnancy, usually during the first trimester. ‘Morning sickness’ is a deceptive term as it can happen at any time of the day. It may be triggered by smells, foods or nothing at all. 

Eating little and often can help quell the queasiness, as can ginger biscuits (or better still root ginger). It is advisable to consume carbohydrates at each meal and obviously avoid foods or smells that make it worse. Try to drink water little and often too. 

See your midwife or doctor if you have excessive vomiting and weight loss as some women need a prescription to bring things under control.

Heatburn

You have progesterone to thank for this pesky problem. It relaxes the muscle in the stomach from quite early on in your pregnancy so lunch can lurch up the wrong way. Later on, the sheer size of your baby bump can also contribute to heartburn when your uterus puts pressure on your stomach.

Some of your morning sickness strategies could help minimise heartburn and so might drinking milk – because it neautralises stomach acid. Eat little and often and try to eat a few hours before you plan on going to bed so you are laying down on a relatively empty stomach. Try sleeping with more pillows to keep your head elevated and avoid tight clothes.

If you are really uncomfortable and these tips aren’t helping, see your doctor or midwife, who may prescribe antacids.

Shortness of breath

Breathlessness in pregnancy can be down to hormonal changes that affect the way you absorb oxygen into your bloodstream via your lungs. These changes can heighten your sensitivity to the levels of carbon dioxide breathed out. Women tend to breathe more efficiently while pregnant, but this transition to deeper breaths may make you feel breathless, some mums-to-be are more aware of this change than others.

Under your ribcage there is a sheet of muscle known as the diaphragm. When you take a breath in, your diaphragm goes down so there is more room for air to enter your lungs. However, during pregnancy your womb is growing and there is less space for your diaphragm to move down. This means you can’t take in as much air in a breath and can leave you feeling breathless.

Breathlessness can also be brought on by anaemia or extra weight. If you are worried about feeling short of breath at any point during your pregnancy, don’t hesitate to speak with your doctor, and call your midwife immediately if the breathlessness is sudden or accompanied by chest pain.

 

Cankles

Oedema is the medical name for fluid retention that can cause swollen ankles and feet. It can happen during pregnancy because your body is storing more fluid than usual. Also, your bump puts pressure on the blood vessels in your pelvis that can slow your circulation down and cause the blood to pool.

Support tights, exercise and not sitting or standing for too long can all help. Swelling usually gets worse as the day goes on, so try to put your feet up regularly if you find that you can’t distinguish between your calf and your ankle when you settle down for your afternoon cuppa.

Call your doctor or midwife if you have sudden or severe swelling. It could be a sign of pre-eclampsia which is a serious condition needing medical attention.

Fatigue

Making a person is hard work and fatigue is normal. There is no quick fix but it makes sense to rest when you need to.

Fatigue is often worse during the first trimester and, by comparison, you may feel comparatively spritely during your second. The size of your bump can slow you down at the end of your third trimester but you are on the home straight by then!

You may have strange dreams about the baby or giving birth and this is normal. But do talk to your partner or midwife if you’re feeling anxious.

Try to get lots of rest and find out more about safe sleeping positions with the charity Tommy’s.

If you feel exceptionally exhausted or breathless see your doctor who will want to rule out anemia.

Headaches

Hormonal changes and surges can cause headaches for some woman, particularly early on in the pregnancy.

Check in with your doctor or midwife who may advise you to take the occasional dose of paracetamol – which is considered the safest painkiller in pregnancy. Never exceed the recommended dose and avoid medications containing codeine and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen unless prescribed by your doctor. Check labels and talk to your healthcare professionals about medication you’re taking. 

Drink plenty of water to ensure you are hydrated. Dehydration can also cause headaches. 

If your headache is very bad, is affecting your vision, causing pain below your ribs, causing vomiting or sudden swelling then call your midwife, doctor or 111 immediately.

Constipation

That pesky progesterone at work again! The hormone slows down activity in the gut so things aren’t moving along as quickly as they did pre-pregnancy.

Avoid laxatives, unless recommended by your doctor or midwife. Instead, up your fruit, veg to make sure you’re getting enough fibre, and drink plenty of water. 

Iron pills can cause constipation, don’t take these unless recommended by your doctor or midwife.

Haemorrhoids

Ah, the glamour of being a baby-making machine! The dreaded haemorrhoids (piles) are varicose veins around the anus. They can be itchy, uncomfortable or very painful. 

Constipation and straining when going to the toilet can cause problems so try to eat a high fibre diet and stay hydrated. Of course you need to push and strain in labour so things can temporarily worsen at birth – but the good news is things improve afterwards.

Talk to your GP, midwife or pharmacist, there are ointments that can help and don’t be embarrassed- they’ve seen it all before!

Varicose veins

If your mum and grandma have these you are more likely to continue the family tradition! During pregnancy progesterone dilates your veins and your growing baby puts pressure on the deep veins in the pelvis.

You can buy maternity support tights if you spot any varicose veins but avoid tight clothes; they can constrict the veins and exacerbate the situation. Regular walks stimulate blood flow to the legs, and put your feet up when you are sitting down.

 

Backache

You may wear your baby bump at the front but your abdominal muscles and spine are helping to bear the load, which can cause your back to ache.

A little common sense can go a long way so put your high heels away for the next few months and treat yourself to some flats. Avoid lifting heavy things; the hormone relaxin loosens your joints in pregnancy so you are more susceptible to picking up an injury.

Try not to sit down for long periods without getting up and doing some gentle stretches and keep an eye on your posture.

Carpel tunnel syndrome

A brief biology lesson to explain this one; the median nerve in your wrist controls sensation and movement in part of the hand. Swollen tissues can put pressure on this nerve causing numbness or pain in the hands.

CTS can cause numbness, tingling or pain in the fingers and doing fiddly finger tasks can feel difficult and achy. Fluid retention in pregnancy can make you more susceptible.

Speak to staff at your antenatal clinic if you are experiencing symptoms; they will show you some exercises that might help and may suggest wearing a wrist splint for a short period of time.

Pelvic joint pain

Some pregnant women experience discomfort in the two bones at the front of the pelvis. This is partly due to the hormone relaxin which has softened the ligaments of the joint – giving them more movement. It can also arise because of the weight of your bump pushing down on this part of your body.

As well as discomfort symptoms of pelvic joint or pelvic girdle, pain can include a clicking sensation. If you are suffering speak to your doctor or midwife who may refer you to a physiotherapist.

Sleep difficulties

Anxiety, apprehension and physical discomfort can all contribute to sleepless nights before bump turns to baby. If you are kept counting sheep because of emotional concerns, lean on a friend or confide in a professional. A problem shared is said to a problem halved – which could lead to double the dozing time for worrisome weary you.

If you are struggling to sleep because your burgeoning bump makes it hard to get comfy try snuggling up to a V shaped cushion, they can be positioned to support your bump and take the weight off your spine.

Non-pregnancy specific sleep tips still apply; a warm bath or warm milk can be soothing and help you to unwind. The additional calcium is a bonus for baby too. Potassium in bananas can help keep leg cramps at bay if they are bothering you, and headaches can be halted if you stay hydrated.

For information on safe sleeping, watch Tommy’s’ Sleep on Side video.

Skin and hair

Those extra hormones may create a little baby-making havoc but they have their upsides too.

You don’t shed as much hair as normal while pregnant giving you a thicker, more lustrous main. Remember that in the months after birth when you think you are shedding hair, it’s just your body returning to its normal pre-pregnancy state. Enjoy it while it lasts!

Pregnant women are often described as glowing, while this may in part be down to your distracted dreamy maternal state, it is also thanks to the increased blood volume, which gives you a brighter more radiant complexion.

 

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